Forest fire officials say that people are ignoring fire bans in northwestern Ontario, despite the wildfires that have been ripping through the province for weeks.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry issued fire bans across northwestern Ontario just more than two weeks ago, but conservation officers have caught and fined numerous people having campfires or bonfires in that time.
“I think sometimes people may think ‘well, it rained a little bit here…or I have a nice fire pit that’ll work,” fire information officer Deb MacLean told CBC News. “I think they’re taking the law into their own hands in a way by deciding on their own to have a fire when there’s legislation in place saying that’s against the law.”
But that’s not all they’re taking into their own hands. According to Natural Resources Canada, wildfires consume an average of 2.3 million hectares of the country each year, and human carelessness or accidents cause more than half of those fires. Although some of the recent fires were triggered by lightning, others are believed to be the result of human activity.
“Conservation officers are out on patrol in the morning, the afternoon and the evening, and they’re encountering people who are not recognizing the extreme danger that’s involved with those outdoor fires in these conditions,” MacLean said.
Firefighters are continuing to battle the large fires straddling the Ontario-Manitoba boundary, including one in the Kenora district that’s being held at just under 6,000 hectares, and a number of new fires reported over the long weekend. British Columbia’s provincial government also recently announced that 100 of the province’s firefighters are being deployed to Thunder Bay to help battle the flames, which have led some northern communities to declare a state of emergency.
If the risks aren’t clear enough to stop people, perhaps getting slapped with a hefty fine will. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s website, failing to comply with a fire ban can land you a fine of up to $1,000. You could also be forced to cover the costs of a resulting blaze, or even be sentenced to three months in prison.
The ministry’s website also provides an up-to-date map indicating active fires, current danger levels, and restricted fire zones across the province. To report a forest fire, call 310-FIRE (3473).